Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Julian Rathbone - "An old-school lefty"?

Novelist Julian Rathbone died last week - a prolific author of some of the best contemporary thrillers and historical novels. Tight plots and good characterisation - see for example A spy of the Old School (1982), or Lying in State (1985) - were his hallmark. Although his writing often dealt with overtly political themes - his books were also quietly subversive in the way he portrayed relationships between men and women, as in Dangerous Games (1991)- as well as anticipating new social issues such as genetic engineering, ZDT (1986). In recent years he reached a much wider audience with his historical novels The Last english King (1997) A Very English Agent (2002) and most recently The Mutiny (2007).

Nick Coleman, in the Guardian describes Rathbone as "an old-school lefty. He said so himself. His detestation of privilege and the structures which maintain it was profound. His contempt for them was expressed by turn frighteningly, wittily and sexily, and often all at once, but never, ever dully or merely rhetorically." but Julian Rathbone was more than that, describing himself in an article for the Independent as "a romantic optimist with anarchist leanings"*
It was this libertarian socialist vision that suffuses Rathbone's books and makes them quite unlike those of any other modern English writer, giving them an alternative system of values and ideas which appealed to the ordinary reader.

*Julian Rathbone: "Futuristic Notes: sorry to disturb you. Tax Control here,"
The Independent, Sep 30, 1998

Julian Rathbone: "Englishness in The Last English King and Kings of Albion"

Nick Coleman in The Guardian:
Bob Cornwell interview with julian Rathbone for Tangled Web UK:


...and lastly, here is Julian Rathbone discussing "War and Britishness" at a symposium at the University of Tubingen, originally mentioned on Booksurfer in 2002: